Red Tailed Hawks: How big can they catch?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by UrbanEnthusiast, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. UrbanEnthusiast

    UrbanEnthusiast Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 12, 2012
    Port Orford, Oregon
    Hey, folks. First off, I'm not worried about nighttime predators because my husband is a highly experienced carpenter who knows how to build and maintain a secure coop and run.

    I have raised larger, dual-purpose hens before in the city with a nice fence all around the yard. Now I'm out in the country with no money or desire to build a fence, so I'm starting a free-range flock, which I would like to keep confined only while they roost at night and perhaps a few hours each morning until they're done laying, ideally. I got 10 female chicks. Landlady won't allow a rooster, sadly. I got Brown Leghorn, Ancona, EE, Hamburg, and Egyptian Fayoumis, all smaller LF breeds that seem wary, noisy, and flighty enough to escape, at least most of the time, the many coyotes we're liable to hear howling around here at all hours of the day any time of year. But what about hawks? In the 18 months that I've lived here, I've only seen a hawk on the property one time. For whatever reason, they're just not in the habit of coming around here, but I worry that chickens will attract them. Our area is mostly wooded, with some clearing, but we don't mow anything. Dense cover such as ferns, tall grasses, blackberry bushes, and big trees are never far away. Even though I got small breeds, all my girls should end up weighing at least 4 lbs when they are full grown (I wouldn't dare let them free-range until then). Are RT hawks really in the habit of taking prey that large?

    And for the record, I am not looking for any sentiments such as, "ZOMG YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE LOSSES SO YOU SHOULD LOCK UP ALL YOUR HENS FOREVER." I know some losses are inevitable with free-ranging, but I'm not interested in keep chickens locked up in a run 24/7. That kills the joy of observing them in a natural setting, and their eggs taste hardly any better than store bought that way. I'm just trying to keep predator losses to a minimum. I don't mind raising up a few chicks from the feed store each spring. I'm wondering what I should do if I do see any hawks coming around. Do I need to worry, and if so, what should I do?

    Here are a couple of pics of the coop we acquired via Craigslist so you can see what kind of environment we're working with. (Coop still needs to be leveled, door added, etc., while chicks are still brooding in the house. We're also going to add a lean-to expansion off the back of the coop for more roosting space and a secure run). Thanks in advance for any practical advice!


    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  2. Eggsoteric

    Eggsoteric Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 25, 2010
    Even as large as some RT's get it's doubtful that they have the capability of carrying off a 4 lb. chicken. I lost 3 this past Fall to RT attacks and each time the chicken was killed and eaten on the ground.
    1 person likes this.
  3. k5crew

    k5crew Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 27, 2015
    Kingsland, Texas
    My most dangerous daytime predator has been dogs. We have a pair if RT Hawks that nest near us, so we are vigilant and go back to the girls randomly. Yelling "Go Hawk" seems to work fine when you see them. Make sure they have places to hide though out free range area and you should be fine.

    Yes you may have losses, but your girls will love to free range!!! Best of luck!!!
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  4. BertandMary

    BertandMary Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    A couple of things that help are keeping a nice sized dog, such as a lab. Another is to put a few safe spots up which they can run under for cover. It doesn't have to be much, but anything around half the size of a picnic table works. Toss a handful of scratch under there to get them going from spot to spot. We have a pair of red tails flying over every day for the laat few years and haven't, knock on wood, lost one to them yet.
    1 person likes this.
  5. BertandMary

    BertandMary Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Also, raise the coop up just one more cinder block higher if you can. The flock will enjoy summer dirt baths under there. You will also want it higher because at that height there is a good chance one or more hens will lay eggs under it anyway. Might as well make them easier to get to. You don't want to be shoveling out a trench as I had to do under my shed to retrieve a dozen or so eggs. Haha
    1 person likes this.
  6. attimus

    attimus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Your property is a bit more densely wooded than mine. I wouldn't assume because you don't see the hawks doesn't mean they aren't around, just not interested in an empty field at the moment. I've lost a few chickens and ducks to several different predators, the smallest being a white leghorn who was killed by a redtail, and was eaten on site. With larger prey the hawks will go for an impact kill. I've had a juvenile hawk try for an austrolorp hen that was tucked into a bush. He just couldn't maneuver properly to get into it after her. Just recently they tried making a nest on my property, a couple of good storms put a stop to that but are still constantly around. As spring approaches I get alot more juveniles in the area, they tend to move on after enough time with no luck. Bummer you can't have roosters, I have several here and accredit it to the lack of success that the hawks have had. Literally have eyes all around the property. Roughly 30 chickens free range with several other pens. Nothing can land in a tree or fly by without something seeing it.
    Nothing here is dead set in stone, only my personal experience with these creatures of habit.
    1 person likes this.
  7. HeatherTheMommy

    HeatherTheMommy Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2015
    Felton DE
    I never saw a hawk on our property until we got chickens and i never even knew then until one killed my dominque hen. Didnt varry her away but ate her on the ground. Then came back for about a week trying to get into my run/coop.
  8. BertandMary

    BertandMary Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Killed a possum messin around the coop tonight.
  9. RhodeRunner

    RhodeRunner Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 22, 2009
    Ashtabula, Ohio
    They can catch any size, but hawks can't carry the larger birds away. In our yard, between the dogs, roosters and kids, they left the largefowl and bigger bantams alone. But, all my old english game and rosecomb bantams got carried off (birds under 2lb).

    Afterwards, I hung a bunch of cd disks around the yard to scare them off. I'm not sure if that worked, or if they stopped coming because there wasn't any more bantam snacks. lol
  10. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    The male Red Tail is the most dangerous because he usually feeds his mate and their young hawk chicks until the hen hawk can leave her brood to lend a hand. A BIG male RT will push it to top 2 or 2 1/2 pounds the Lady Hawk may go up to 4 pounds or maybe a tad more. But this will be less the further West of the Mississippi you go.. The limiting thing that forces hawks to eat at the kill sight is the air resistance of a dead chicken, think of an adult, standard sized, dead hen or rooster. One with two useless wings, a couple of dangling feet and a head and tail hanging in the hawks' slipstream and suddenly the size of the victim becomes unimportant because the air resistance or drag not to mention the weight is more than a broad winged raptor can manage going in a forward directions. I will say that almost any "normal" sized chicken say up to 6 or 7 pounds is in danger from hawks.

    RT Hawks are inefficient killers and it may take an hour or more for a RT hawk to kill a hen or rooster especially if the hawk is inexperienced catching chickens and has to eat the victim alive in order to kill it. There are many stories on this web sight of chickens that have survived providing a meal to a hawk.

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